Joan Oberndorf | May 8th, 2013 | Posted in How To, News, Wellness

Pain in the sole of your foot is no fun. Why it happens and ways to deal.

Foot pain is…a pain (duh) but can be especially worrying when you’re a dancer.  Pain in the plantar (or bottom) surface of your foot can range from mild soreness to highly uncomfortable, and can potentially put you on the sidelines, keeping you from class and performing.  Who/or what is the reason?  Let’s lay out some symptoms first before we pinpoint the culprit, along with possible causes and ways to help (and help avoid) this issue.  It’s time to:

Pin the cause on the foot pain!
If you have

-tight calves
-pain along the bottom of your foot, may be concentrated at the heel
-pain that is worse when you first get up, may (or may not) diminish with activity

Or you’ve recently

-increased your activity level (ie gone from 1/class a day to several)
-added running to your routine

Then you may have…

Plantar Fasciitis!

Ding ding ding!  You win the (unwanted) prize of foot pain caused by our lovely friend, plantar fasciitis.  Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation (fun fact: “itis”= inflammation) of the fibrous band of tissue

(fascia) that runs along the bottom (plantar) surface of your foot, connecting your heel to your toes.  Tight calved folks are especially vulnerable to this lovely malady, which can be quite painful.  It may also strike if you suddenly increase your activity level, ie going from the occasional class to several a day (never a good idea) or if you wake up one day and decide that it’s the perfect time to train for the 5K that’s 2 weeks away.  The pain may be concentrated at the base of your heel, or it may spread along the base of your foot.  Your pain level may diminish with activity-ie getting out of bed in the morning may be excruciating but you start to feel better as you move around.  This is not due to the mythical dance fairy (sorry), but is because the increased blood flow to the area warms and softens the plantar fibers.

What to do?

Now that we know what’s going on, what’s a dancer to do?  Ice, massage, and stretching are all good for plantar fasciitis.  Here are some specific applications:

Icemake yourself a customized ice roller by filling a plastic water bottle 3/4 full and popping it into the freezer.  Once it’s frozen place the bottle on the floor and roll the arch of your foot back and forth on it-for best results do this until the area is numb (or at least nice and cold).  If you choose to ice statically (ie, not moving the ice) put a towel between your foot and the ice so you don’t burn your skin.

Massage-Letting a professional have a go at your feet is a great idea (though it can be painful).  Self massage can also be done by putting a tennis or golf ball on the floor and using it to press into sore

spots and/or rolling your foot over it.  Again, this can be painful and not for the faint of heart-if you have trouble tolerating the discomfort it’s a good idea to thoroughly ice the bottom of you foot first.

 

Stretching-Calf stretches are essential for addressing plantar fasciitis, and can be done several ways, including a simple runner’s lunge with the feet in parallel, standing on a stair and letting your heel drop, or even the good old downward dog yoga position.

downward facing dog

courtesy of yoga journal

You can also stretch the fascia directly-here’s a nice video illustrating this:

Try any or all of the above to ease symptoms and/or even as a precaution to keep your feet feeling fine!

The above is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as a diagnosis-it’s always best to check in with your doctor about any ongoing problems or pain.